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Scratch for autistic children

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3 replies [Last post]
David Lee

I was recently approached by a learning center to teach an autistic child programming. The mother and school approached me having read that computer science is a suitable knowledge/ skill for the child. 

I started off with showing the child some simple scratch animations ( e.g. how to make the fish swim in an aquarium), but I'm not sure if I was getting through to him. I do understand autistic kids have different learning capabilities, and have read up as much as I could to prepare myself for the lesson. 

Does anybody else have such an experience with autistic kids, and have any ideas of what are suitable projects to start them off with? Any help would be much appreciated.

Igal Bronshtein
Hi David.
I teach Scratch children with intellectual disability.
In the past when work with autism didn't know about Scratch.
But based on my experience, think that if you asked mother about special interest of her child.
And create individual activity, it  can help. For example if he like pirates make
the Scratch activities with use of pirates images.
David Lee
Hi Willa,

Pls forgive this tardy response, the articles and links provided were very helpful and I was looking through and trying to understand them.

Thank you very much for the links, I will try out some of the suggestions and will share again on my experience with the child.


Wilhelmina Peragine
Hi David,

These are great questions.

I think your approach of experimenting with different entry points and checking in often with the student to see what works for them is a good one. I've worked in inclusive classrooms with several students with autism and one thing I've found helpful to keep in mind is that each student with autism is as variable as any other learner (in terms of likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses).

I wonder if some of the activities from the Creative Computing Curriculum Guide could be useful in this case. For example, you could sit with the student and let them click around the Scratch interface, seeing what happens as they click? Maybe you could look at a variety of projects (of their choosing) together and let them point out something they would like to be able to create or remix? For many students with autism, abundant choice and lack of structure is overwhelming, so perhaps an activity with constraints - like Ten Blocks (also from the CC guide) - would be a helpful place to start?

A few other resources I found that might be helpful:
Here is a brief discussion of the ways in which the Scratch online community can be helpful for some students with autism.
Here is a ScratchEd Discussion about working with students with disabilities.
Here is an article about programming and students with autism. 
Here is a list of tips for teachers working with students on the autism spectrum.
I hope some of this is useful. I hope we can continue this conversation and keep sharing resources.